Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
Reviewed by Sheila Jones (Greenridge Chronicles)

When I first picked up The Diamond of Darkhold, I knew nothing about The City of Ember , or indeed any of the other titles in Jeanne DuPrau’s Ember series. I looked at the cover (which, judging from the bland frontispiece, seemed more intent on advertising the upcoming film) and thought “Hmmm.”

Then I started the first chapter, The Vault:

“Around the middle of the twenty-first century, when it seemed that a great catastrophe was about to engulf the world, an underground city was built as a last refuge for the human race. It was called the city of Ember.”

Okay, I thought, post-apocalyptic fiction. Fun. I read on:

“When the people emerge from the city,” [the builder] said, “they will find themselves in a devastated world.”
“Unfortunately true,” said his assistant.

The Builder and his assistant cook up a plan to stock some essential “head start” articles for the people of this city, to be hidden in a vault in a hillside near to where they would emerge, when the Earth is once again safe to roam about on. Only one catch:

The people of Ember came out of their underground city somewhat later than planned. Because they were in a state of bewilderment and exhaustion when they emerged, and because trees had grown up where trees hadn’t been before, they failed to notice the door to the vault.

Oh darn. They missed the vault for the trees. But wait, someone else finds the vault. Someone who is obviously unsuitable. Someone who can’t read and has a bad temper. And thus begins The Diamond of Darkhold.

I should start by saying that I don’t believe you need to have read the first three books in this series. It will help for some of the more obscure-and-never-explained-even-at-the-end moments, but most of what you need is in that initial chapter: apocalyptic events threaten Earth, quick-thinking and very anonymous people develop a secret underground city and stock it with food, greenhouses, clothing, and buildings, not to mention a generator to power this underground city for at least 200 years, then lead selected adults and infants down to the city, where they are to form a new society, one to survive the apocalypse. Of course, I say this because I read Darkhold first, instead of last, but there was never a moment when I thought “Ugh, I wish I’d read the others before this one.” Never.

Darkhold takes up the story several months after the people of Ember have emerged from what we are told was a malfunctioning and slowly dying city. The people of Ember are not the only people to have survived the apocalypse, though; shortly after emerging they come across a town called Sparks, with a small but determined group of inhabitants living a hardscrabble life, and the Emberites set to work to assimilate into the sometimes resentful town. Life is hard for everyone, and more so for the Emberites, not having experienced things like wind and rain and cold. Plus, they didn’t bring much with them when they left Ember, and the people of Sparks are at times ambivalent about sharing what little they have. People get sick, people die, crops fail, and there is no real medicine to speak of. Someone needs to do something, and fortunately, someone does. Someone from the city of Ember. This is the story of The Diamond of Darkhold.

I was quite enchanted with this book. In fact, I could hardly put it down, it was so gripping. DuPrau has a clear, crisp style that details in the sparest of ways, leaving one with the feeling that the reading was like having been on a roller coaster. The action moves along briskly, never lingering, the characters are vivid, their dialogue genuine, and even the bleakest moments zip along with a sort of breathlessness. I was left with the feeling that I’d just read a book written by an old pro.

And when I’d finished it, I went immediately to the library and took out The City of Ember .

What Other Bloggers Are Saying:

Wands and Worlds:
"There's plenty of excitement and suspense and adventure. And I really liked that what they found in Ember was different than what they - and the reader - expected. Fans of the Ember series will definitely want to read it. " (read more...)

A Patchwork of Books:
"A few new characters make their way into the ever exciting mix, as do all the favorites, in what turned out to be a pretty great adventure. The beginning moved slightly slower than I typically enjoy, but being a fourth book in a series a lot of back information was given for possible newcomers to the books. " (read more...) "
There is some action with the adventure, and the author places an emphasis on teamwork, creative thinking, and the acceptance of each other. " (read more...)

Becky's Book Reviews:
"While The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood are more about ideas and philosophies, this one is pure action and adventure." (read more...) Also see an interview with the author at Becky's Book Reviews.

More Info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375855718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375855719
  • Source: Review copy from publisher
Other Ember Books in the series:

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